Foucault: The Birth of Power is reviewed by Nancy Luxon in Perspectives in Politics, and by JM Moore in Justice, Power and Resistance. That book, and Foucault’s Last Decade are also discussed in a review essay by Mike Gane in Cultural Politics, which also looks at two of Foucault’s courses. The Gane essay is critical, the Moore one is very positive, while the Luxon is positive but opens up some issues about how we might use Foucault too. The Moore one is open access, the others are behind pay-walls.
I’m not going to get into a bigger debate, especially with Gane, where there are clearly fundamental disagreements. But I will point out a few things. If I had wanted to write a book about how to use Foucault, then I would have tried to do that. I’ve been clear all along that I’m trying to write intellectual history. It’s interesting that Moore, who seems most involved in using Foucault in his own work with prisoners, found the book of worth for that project. In terms of the project of a socialist governmentality, what I think I do is to show the evidence for what Foucault had in mind, combining archives, interviews and other reports. I’d hope that was some use to someone interested in taking up the idea. I think Gane is wrong to say that the archives hold no interest. He takes a wilfully wrong-headed reading of my text to get there, suggesting that I was annoyed a box didn’t contain what I thought, when the point was to say the materials related to no previously-known project, which I then discuss. I’m prepared to accept I don’t make the importance of the archives as clear as I’d like. But to say there is nothing of interest there is just nonsense. Also, the idea that we already had most of the insights of Les Aveux de la chair before it was actually published seems wrong. Now the book is published, people can decide for themselves. My initial take is here.
Finally, while Luxon’s review begins and ends with the location of the Foucault archive, his papers are not actually at the newer BnF building – the Mitterand site – but at the older Richelieu one some miles away in the centre of Paris. Foucault spent a huge amount of his working life at the Richelieu library, which used to be the main site, so I think it’s actually entirely fitting that his papers ended up there, even if he got fed up with the library late in life, and moved to the Dominican Saulchoir library.
All the other reviews of these books are linked from this page.